A tired Spurs team defeated the Timberwolves 97-90 in an overtime loss in San Antonio Saturday night. But the Wolves showed that they have the fiber to compete with the league’s best.
The Spurs, on the second-night of a back-to-back after an overtime win against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans the night before, clawed their way back against the Wolves in the 4th quarter to force overtime.
San Antonio never led the game until star forward Kawhi Leonard put the Spurs ahead 80-78 with 2 minutes, 45 seconds left in regulation. The Spurs proceeded to dominate the overtime period and put the Wolves away for good, largely on the strength of Leonard’s performance.
Down the stretch, Kawhi was too much for the Wolves. As good as Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns have been playing–they’ve been great as of late–Leonard was the best player on the floor by a significant margin on Saturday night.
The Wolves got off to a fast start in the 1st quarter, holding a lead of 26-14 despite shooting only 37%. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns had 6 apiece and Ricky Rubio notched 4 assists. The Wolves held SAS to 33% shooting in the first frame.
The Wolves played SAS to a draw in the 2nd, with both teams scoring 29 in the frame. The Spurs D started clamping down in the 3rd quarter, holding the Wolves to 15 points on 33.3% shooting.
Leonard turned it on in the 4th. He scored 14 of SAS’ 21 points in the frame. By contrast, Wiggins struggled in the 4th, scoring an inefficient 7 points on 2-7 shooting.
Leonard displayed the fiber and skill we hope Andrew Wiggins will develop as he matures. Leonard finished with 34 points, 10 boards, 5 assists and 5 steals. Wiggins had a bad night, getting 17 on 6-24 from the field.
The Wolves should’ve won this game, but it wasn’t a surprise when they lost. In a way, it felt like so many of the games earlier this season that the team led during the first two or three quarters, only to come up short at the finish. But on the other hand, it felt entirely different: the Spurs are the real McCoy, and the better, more experienced team won. That’s how it usually works in this business.
Granted, it would’ve felt great had the Wolves pulled out the victory last night, but the loss did not feel as deflating as the string of losses the Wolves suffered earlier in the season. The difference is that in this game, it felt like the Wolves had developed enough as a team to take useful lessons away from the loss. I’m as dubious about “moral victories” as anyone, but this one falls squarely into that category.
Even without Manu Ginobili–he was a DNP-Rest–the Wolves gave what remains one of the league’s very best teams all it could handle. And the Spurs, in turn, gave the Wolves a lesson in winning in #WinningTime.
I can’t necessarily say that a good time was had by all–after all, a moral victory does not a victory make–but the Wolves finally seem like a worthy competitor: not something to sneeze at in lookin at a game played on the road against one of the league’s best teams. Status as a “worthy competitor,” however defined, is something that has eluded ‘Sota for most of the last decade.
- KAT had another ho-hum 24 & 14 game. He’s really, really good.
- Pau Gasol’s length has always bothered the Wolves. So has LaMarcus Aldridge’s. LMA had 18 & 10 and tied Kawhi for game-best +/- at +18. Gasol, who has been coming off the bench with former D-Leaguer Dewayne Dedmon starting at the five, had 17 & 8 and was +10. The Wolves still lack the length to deal with the teams that have it in spades, like SAS.
- I’m thankful Ricky Rubio is still on our team and not playing for the Knicks. [Ice Cube voice] Last night Rubio f*cked around and got a triple-double. (Cue Cube)
Meanwhile, the Wolves finished their 4-game road trip at 2-2. Fret not–they’re still in the hunt for a playoff spot. (!)
They play next on Monday against Portland at Target Center.